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Stephen L. Carter

Sarah Palin May Find That Libel Doesn’t Mean What It Used To

Our politically polarized climate will make it harder for the former Alaska governor to win her complaint against the New York Times. 

Sarah Palin, former governor of Alaska.

Sarah Palin, former governor of Alaska.

Photographer: Bloomberg

With the trial of Sarah Palin’s defamation suit against the New York Times now in the hands of the jury, her effort to vindicate her reputation looks pretty much done for. The reason isn’t that she lacks a legitimate beef. The problem is that although libel law exists to protect reputation, reputation doesn’t mean what it used to mean.

The case stems from a 2017 Times editorial that inaccurately linked Palin’s political action committee to the 2011 Arizona shooting where six people were killed and Rep. Gabby Giffords was wounded. At the time of the editorial, the connection had been debunked, including in the pages of the Times. The paper ran a correction within hours.